WordPress powers 39.5 percent of all the world’s websites. As CMSs go, it’s a wild success, and it makes sense: WordPress offers incredible customization, a massive library of plugins, and a lot of flexibility.
Yet to some users, WordPress customization is still something of an arcane art. Stock WordPress is easy to use but there are some customizations that are absolutely vital if you wish to make the best site you can.
Are you ready to learn more and start building a better website? Then read on!
1. Add Your Branding
So you’ve got a great website, a great hosting plan, and you’re all ready to go. The problem with many WordPress sites is that they all look the same. There’s a generic WordPress look, which can lead to your site getting overlooked in favor of other, more well-branded sites.
If you want to make your website look better, it’s time to add your company’s logo to the site. We’d recommend adding it to your login screen, the header, and the footer.
Making your site uniquely yours begins with branding, so get started right away.
2. Tweak the Backend
WordPress customization shouldn’t begin and end with what customers see. We would recommend that you tweak the dashboard too so that you and other users have an easier time managing the site.
When you load into your dashboard, there are a lot of widgets fighting for your attention. Not all of them are going to be useful, so why not trim them down?
From your dashboard, click on “screen options” in the top right. From here, you can select and deselect the widgets that are displayed on the dashboard.
We’d recommend that you go through this list and remove some of the widgets to create a cleaner interface that’s easier for you to navigate day-to-day. A couple of examples that you can probably safely turn off are:
- WordPress Events and News aren’t going to be useful unless you want to be highly involved in WordPress development
- Welcome isn’t useful once you’ve taken a look at its instructions: it’s pretty much one-use-only
Start customizing your site’s backend and make it easier for you and the other users!
3. Tweak Your Homepage
When you go to your WordPress site, what do you see? By default, your homepage will show your latest posts and while this can be useful, it’s not going to work for every site. So, how can you design a great page and make it the homepage for your website?
If you log into your website as admin, you can go to settings and then reading. Here, you’ll find an option that’s labeled “front page displays.” Change this setting from “your latest posts” to “a static page.”
In the box below it, you can select the page you made earlier. We would also recommend that you make a second page for displaying your blog posts and then set this as your “posts page.”
These kinds of changes are vital: there’s no reason to show your latest posts as your homepage if your site isn’t blog-focussed.
4. Install and Customize Themes
WordPress comes with a decent selection of themes but if you want to make your site stand out, you’re going to need something a little more bespoke. That’s where custom themes come in. There is a huge selection of different themes available, so take your time and browse through them.
When you’ve found one that you like, whether it’s free or premium, you can install it by going to “appearance” and then “themes.” From here, click on “add new theme” and select the theme that you want to use. If you’re using a premium theme, you will need to upload the theme’s files to your site by hand.
From the appearance menu, you can also customize your new theme. The WordPress customizer will load up and give you a range of options that you can tweak to your heart’s content. For instance, you can customize the colors that the theme uses if you’d like your site to look warmer or cooler, and you can also change the site icon, that appears in your visitor’s tab, with different themes offering different levels of customization for you to harness.
You should be aware that, depending on the theme you use, page speed may be affected. If you use a theme that is too heavy on resources, your site will be slower to load, which can count against you for SEO purposes. Google now measures page speed and uses it as an SEO factor, so we would recommend that you choose a theme that is fairly lightweight.
5. Installing Plugins
Plugins are one of the key features of WordPress and one of the features that makes it such a versatile CMS. Thanks to its widespread consumer support, there are plugins for anything and everything.
Some plugins are absolutely essential for the best user experience, for both you and your visitors. For instance, security plugins like WordFence are fantastic for defending your site from spam and malware, which could otherwise run riot on your website.
We would also recommend taking a look at caching plugins: these can cache content to make your site faster to navigate. Some plugins even come with features like data compression programs that can make caches smaller.
Image optimization plugins can also come in handy, as they will compress images to make them load faster on your visitor’s devices.
If the base WordPress tools aren’t enough for you, there are also drag-and-drop page builder tools that can make creating bespoke pages for your site far easier.
If you do start installing plugins, it’s imperative that you keep them updated. This is an essential component of good WordPress security, as old plugins can be an open door for malware and hackers.
6. Change How Your Site Displays Images
The default way that WordPress displays images is at a large resolution in a row, right on top of each other. This can make scrolling through your site a chore and doesn’t look too modern.
If you want to make your site look better, we’d recommend that you tweak your settings so that WordPress instead shows a grid of thumbnail-sized images, which users can then click on.
To do this, click on “add media” as you normally would to add images to your site and then go to “create gallery.” From here, you’ll need to select the images that you want to use, then hit “create new gallery.” In this window, you can choose how many columns you’d like to display and what image size you would like to use.
However, we would recommend getting a plugin that offers Lightbox support if you’re going to go down this route. Otherwise, when users click on the image, they will need to load it in a new page and then click back to get to your post.
7. Add New Fonts to Your Website
Fonts can say a lot about your website. There is some debate about whether you should only use one font, and we’d recommend that, on the whole, you stick with a primary font for your business, yet which one sends the right message?
A handwritten font can add sophistication but sacrifices some clarity, while a standard font may look dull but offers profound legibility.
Whichever font you want to use, you can add it to WordPress. There are a lot of different great font packs out there, with the Google Fonts Typography plugin a firm favorite among WordPress users. To add it to your site, you’ll need to download and install the plugin like you would any other.
From there, load up the customizer window and you’ll find a whole new section dedicated to fonts. Here, you’ll be able to change your fonts across various aspects of your site: for instance, you can set a handwritten font for your headers, while still maintaining legibility with a standard print font for your body and site buttons.
8. Add Page Breaks to Your Post
How long are the posts on your site? If they’re over 500 words, you should consider adding page breaks. A traditional page contains around 500 words and as you start writing longer posts, they can start to look like monolithic blocks of text.
Adding page breaks in WordPress is often not as simple as clicking a button, which means that for a lot of people, the feature goes unused. This is a tremendous shame, as it makes your website far more readable and offers a better experience to your visitors.
If you want to add page breaks to a post you’re writing, you can use the block inserter button or HTML. To add them via the block inserter button, then hit “page break.” If you want to add one fast, you can also type “/pagebreak” in a new paragraph.
If you want to add one via HTML code, switch to HTML and then scroll to where you want to add a page break and type: “<!–nextpage–>” without the quotes, which adds a new page and a link to it on the previous page.
9. Add Social Icons
Social media marketing is an important part of marketing and if following your company is a chore, people aren’t going to do it. Adding social icons for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like makes it far easier for people to find you on these networks.
Some themes come with social icons included, but it’s up to you which ones you use and where you place them. We would recommend creating social media accounts on at least Facebook and Twitter, and place them in the footer of your website. You could also consider using them in your header or adding small buttons on the sides of your page.
You should also add social share buttons. Encouraging your visitors to share your site’s content is essentially free marketing for your site, so you should make it as easy as possible. Add buttons that let users share posts to Twitter, Facebook, or pin images to their Pinterest boards: it will pay off in the long run.
10. Customize Your Display Name
If you leave your display name as Admin, it adds an impersonal touch to your website. Users have no idea about you or who you are, they could be reading something that was posted by a robot for all they know.
Updating your display name to your actual name shows that there is a human behind this website and this business. It makes you seem more familiar and friendly.
Thankfully, updating your display name is a very easy fix. All you need to do is go to settings and then click on the “your profile” setting. In here, you can add a first name, last name, and nickname, and then set which you would like to use as your display name.
WordPress Customization Helps You Stand Out
WordPress customization is an important part of building a great WordPress site. Without it, your site can look dull and uninspiring, which means you’ll have a harder time catching the eyes of your visitors and prospective customers. With a little effort, you can make your site so much better and so much more inviting.
The foundation for a great WordPress site is great hosting: without reliable hosting, your beautiful site won’t be able to reach its full potential. We’re here to help with that. Our managed hosting plans offer superb security and reliability, allowing you to focus on your website’s design and pleasing your customers.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help you, why not schedule a demo with us?
Zach has 12+ years of experience with WordPress, from creating and maintaining client sites, to providing support and developing documentation. A knack for problem-solving and providing solutions led Zach to pursue a job with Automattic providing customer support in 2015 working with WooCommerce support, and now Zach has recently joined our team here at Pressable. Outside of work, Zach enjoys spending time with his family, playing and watching sports, and working on projects around the house.